Keeping the blogosphere posted on the goings on of the world of submarines since late 2004... and mocking and belittling general foolishness wherever it may be found. Idaho's first and foremost submarine blog. (If you don't like something on this blog, please E-mail me; don't call me at home.)

Monday, August 07, 2006

North Korea Claims Capture Of U.S. "Submersible"

FOXNews is reporting a strange story from across the Pacific. It seems that our funny friends in North Korea are claiming that an "ultra-small unmanned submersible vessel was captured during a reconnaissance mission in waters off North Korea's eastern city of Hamhung". From the article:
The newspaper report on its Web site, monitored in Seoul, was accompanied by a picture purported to be of the black torpedo-shaped U.S. vessel. There were no further details as to when or how North Korea obtained it.
Last September, North Korean leader Kim Jong Il instructed officials to put the new spy vessel on public display along with the ship Pueblo that the communist regime captured in 1968, the newspaper said.
A spokesman for the U.S. military in South Korea, David Oten, dismissed the report."We have nothing unaccounted for and there is no way for us to verify that this is a U.S. vessel," Oten said.
As near as I can tell (my computer doesn't have the right language installed) this is the web site they're talking about. There's a picture of a "black, torpedo-shaped" object about 3/4 of the way down the page, which is what I assume is what the North Koreans are claiming is the "unmanned submersible vessel" in question:

I know -- weak. I got you all excited for nothing. Hopefully someone will read this who can translate the story in question (maybe Skippy-san?), and we'll find out how what appears to be an exercise torp could be considered an "spy vehicle". If the article turns out not to have an explanation, hopefully it will at least mention "Juche" or "the glorious Army First policy" so we'll be able to get bigger chuckle.

Bell-ringer 1942 07 Aug: At the suggestion of a commenter, I went to Babelfish, and it spit out this translation for the portion of the article of interest, which it said was titled "The spy boat which is exhibited newly":
minimum elder brother underwater unmanned price tag submergence of the U.S. army which from the Hamgyong-Namdo Hamhung southern part offing is arrested while reconnaissance missions accomplishing really it is a. In anti-US joint combative monthly publication of this year phwu blow favor it was exhibited at the time of rightly before and it was Doe. 2005 September Kim Jong Il general to see the unmanned price tag submergence affection which is arrested and to the people widely this in order to open to the public, and, it does.
It looks like I might still need some translation help, but since it looks like it's in Korean, vice Japanese, Skippy-san might not be much help.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

go to
and enter the url

select korean to english translation. It's crude, but gives you an idea of what was written.

8/07/2006 7:32 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonder if it was one of these (or a closely related relative)?


8/07/2006 9:02 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also wonder why all those people are aboard the USS Pueblo in the pic in the upper right?


8/07/2006 9:05 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Worth thinking about regardless - Thanks!

8/07/2006 10:31 PM

Blogger Bubblehead said...

The Pueblo is a big attraction for the North Koreans; as far as whose torpedo it is, given that it was apparently found in the NE part of the coast, I'm guessing it's Russian.

8/07/2006 11:08 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just look at the screw.
It looks like a wine corkscrew. One of ours? Doubt it.

8/08/2006 1:37 AM

Blogger Skippy-san said...

You are correct, I'm no help when it comes to Hangul. Check out Lost Nomad.

They say Hangul is easier to read, maybe, but I'm still trying to master enough Kanji ( I can only read about a 1000.....1000 more to go!)

I will be in Korea next week though.........I'll try to get a Korean to read it.

8/08/2006 5:38 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Couldn't this be a submarine launched intelligence gathering platform? I'm sure the USN has something like that in development/operation.

The TMS (Torpedo/Mine/Sensor) from Saab Underwater Systems is one example of such a device.
Brief description of the TMS.

I still doubt that whatever the North Koreans have found/made up is of US origin though. I just wanted mention the possibility.

8/08/2006 10:49 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It would be nice if there was something in the pic to give scale. Just from the proportions it doesn't look like it would fit in any of our submarine torpedo tubes. And black is probably the only color I haven't seen on anything we'd put in a tube! :)

8/08/2006 7:23 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...


I was afraid that they'd captured your RC Seawolf. I'm glad to find out otherwise. We'd be screwed if they ever got a hold of that.


8/09/2006 7:15 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yeah, I just betcha those 'No Dong' missles flushed it out of hiding.

8/13/2006 9:19 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

My impression of the device was that it was very likely real. I was told it was 'captured' by the navy in 2004. More likely caught in fishing nets. It has countra-rotating low cavitation screws and visible forward and side looking sonar transducers. There is what is most likely a sat uplink node on top of the casing in a clear acrylic-looking puck. I would say it's 21 inch tube launched. There was no kort nozzel or shroud of any kind. It has X configuration control fins.
The casing appears to slide off for servicing or mission configuration.
I gather that it was put on display within two months prior to August 2006. The location is symbolic as it is beside the USS Pueblo and reportedly also the spot where the USS Sherman was burnt in the 19th century.

2/06/2007 11:58 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

no sat uplink... fiber optic tether to host!

2/14/2007 11:18 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I was standing a foot away from it two weeks ago.

From my notes: it is (as per my pacing it off) 3.5 meters in length and with a circumference of about one meter. The screws are quite interesting – a double corkscrew ensemble on a central shaft and I would guess that they are counter-rotating. The fins are indeed X configured. The nose features a window on the underside covered with what appears to be thick plastic. The window is approximately the size of a saucer. Above the plastic window, at the extreme forward tip, extends one solitary shaft, like an antenna, about the diameter of a screwdriver shaft. That is approximately 30 cm in length. There are no discernable markings anywhere on the exterior. Other than the plastic window in the nose and the screws, it is entirely flat black

The galley of the Pueblo is now the theater for showing related propaganda films to tourist. Guests sit in (what appears to be) the original molded plastic chairs at the original Formica tables and look at a television on which they play a 15 minute film of the Pueblo Incident (their version). The tail end of the film features a brief recount of the capture of the “unmanned submarine.” In that film they show still photographs of the thing being carefully dismantled. (It appears that the dismantling took place right there on the beach, or maybe when they got back to Hamhung Port). In those photos it is easy to see the interior of sections of the thing. Each section is packed with discrete modules, or clusters of instruments. On those components it is clear to see the names of various US Defense contractors, as well as “Made in USA.” stamped on various parts. To my untrained eye, the image of workmanship in the photographs looked very American (i.e. thorough, well done, and complete). I know Korean workmanship well (i.e. incomplete, almost-but-not-quite correct, good enough) and what I saw in the photographs was not what I am accustomed to seeing on the peninsula.

Despite what the North Koreans told me, it was obviously not what we would think of as a submarine. It was more like a large torpedo packed with instruments. I did not serve in the Navy and have no concept of the diameter of a torpedo tube, but I would postulate that what I saw was not necessarily designed to be sent through a tube.

It is, as shown in the photo, housed behind glass and is now the third jewel in the case of captured Yanqui trophies; The USS Pueblo, the cannons from the USS Sherman, and now the “unmanned submarine.” They are all conveniently located in the heart of Pyongyang on the banks of the river in a location they have designated as that where (supposedly) Kim Il Sung’s Great Great Grandfather lead a group of Koreans in burning and sinking the Sherman, then killing the crew. It is terribly convenient that it happened right there in what is now central Pyongyang. The Pueblo unexpectedly and mysteriously appeared at that site about a decade ago after being birthed in Wonson for decades. There is no documented explanation as to how the North Koreans got the Pueblo around to the other side of the peninsula through international waters (without the US knowing and taking action to reclaim the ship). I had known of the Pueblo and Sherman for years, but the “unmanned submarine” was a startling revelation when I walked down the steps on to the quay.

Bottom line – there is something very real behind the glass, and it looks plenty American to my untrained eye.

Raul C. Goldstein

5/15/2007 4:58 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

After looking around on the web I came across this site:

and in particular, this photo from the same site;

and I am convinced that I am looking at the same object I saw on the quayside in Pyongyang.

Raul C. Goldstein

5/15/2007 6:03 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

...and here is a close up photo of the nose...

Raul C. Goldstein

5/24/2007 5:23 AM

Anonymous Darlene said...

It can't work in actual fact, that's what I think.

9/01/2012 7:18 AM


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